Usually at this time of year I have already started setting up my classroom. Typically, early August is when I launch into some crazy new teaching project. But this year, my predictable “end of summer” rhythm has been very different. Even though I plan to go to visit my classroom and check in with my principal tomorrow, I find that I am thinking more about my Colombian host school-La Escuela Superior Normal Quindio, than my own! It is strange, but it seems like I should be taking a taxi to La Escuela Normal tomorrow instead of driving to Cumberland School! Over the the past three weeks I felt myself becoming less of a visitor and more of a maestra as I got to know the teachers and students there.
La Escuela Superior Normal del Quindio serves mostly lower income students, but it considered one of the the top public schools of the city. Teachers felt lucky to work there.
The students felt lucky to go there. The institution is actually three schools–a K-11 general education, a teacher preparation school, and an arts academy. Here are some statistics about this school that I still find mind boggling:
- There are a total of 3,000 students
- Students attend in TWO shifts!
- Half of of the students come from 6:30am-12:30pm
- the other half attends from 1pm-6:30 pm.
- There are also two shifts of teachers.
- The average class size ranges from 40-45 students.
These numbers are still almost impossible for me to get my head around. Which makes the composure and sense of humor of the school’s dynamic principal, Maricel Restrepo even more incredible. While were were there she was completely re-imagining the school library with the intention that it become a welcoming place where kids want to come to read. When we were there she was just putting the finishing touches on her project, which included an actual jeep placed in the school’s courtyard–(intended to be another place where kid can read! ) I wonder how the students reacted to the completed project? I wonder what her next step to innovate and change her school will be?
I am also curious about the students. How do our host teacher Nancy’s students feel to FINALLY have her back in the classroom? (They had to working independently over the time that Nancy was showing us around her school and region! ) During our time at La Escuela Superior Normal we were able to meet some of them–17-18 year olds who are training to become teachers. Ryan and I even shared some classroom management tips with her class. Most of our strategies centered around ways to keep a class quiet. (The Colombian classrooms we visited were much louder than what we were used to at home.) Now I am wondering–will any of Nancy’s students be able to use any of the management strategies that we showed them? Were our ideas even practical in the context of a Colombian classroom of 40-50 students?
I wonder about Derly Moreno’s sweet 1st grade class–the group that welcomed me to
both observe and teach a lesson to them. Are they still learning about families? What did they think of the posters of American families that I brought them? They were all so adorable and I loved teaching them!
I wonder about the winners of the Spelling Bee that Ryan and I helped to judge. They will now go on the the city wide spelling bee in September. How are they studying? Which teachers will help them? The words on this competition were very difficult, ( I was grateful for a paper with the correct spellings when I was judging!) I am sure their teachers are going to be putting in many extra hours to help their students prepare for the next level.
I am so grateful to the teachers at this school for not only letting us into their classrooms, but into their lives as well. They were so open and friendly–willing to accompany us, (and often drive us!) all around the “coffee triangle” Like the teachers I work with at Cumberland School, they worked very hard, but they knew how to have fun as well. I still have many questions about how they are able to accomplish so much in their classrooms, especially given the limited resources and high student numbers that they had to work with. One thing I know for sure–I am not done asking them questions, or having fun with them, even from so far away!